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Safe to drink - but not for laundry

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 11 February 2010

Manufacturing industries in King William’s Town were blamed yesterday for the contamination of the Buffalo River, which serves water systems to various residential areas.

Buffalo River. Photo by Teresa Schultz

Drinking water in King, Breidbach, Zwelitsha, Bhisho, Sweetwaters and Ndevana, which are supplied from the Laing Water Treatment Works, has been contaminated for more than two weeks now. The Amatola Water Board confirmed that there were high levels of manganese and iron in the water, which affected the colour, but said it was safe to drink.

Residents have complained about the colour and smell of the water and have resorted to forking out hundreds of rands on buying bottled water. King resident Mandla Xishe said it was difficult to use the water because of its smell. “This is terrible and as a ratepayer, I’m not supposed to be experiencing this kind of treatment. This has been going on for too long, but seemingly there is no solution.”

Xishe said he feared people would start suffering from stomach problems. “They are now exposing us to diarrhoea and other stomach infections. This is totally unacceptable.”

Another King resident, Heather Farrow, said: “This is getting serious and I know some people had stomach pains.” She said it was unacceptable to have the problem dragging on for weeks.

Bhisho resident Nqaba Mpendu said he had spent over R500 buying bottled water . “You can imagine how this is affecting me during the current recession.” He said he couldn’t cook using the tap water because of its brown colour and smell.

Sweetwaters resident Noxolo Bloom said she had been unable to prepare food for her children. “Life is really difficult. This water is not safe for children and I’ve resorted to buying bottled water and it costs us a lot,” she said.

King supermarkets said residents had been coming in to buy bottled water in quantity, while others said they had been acquiring more stock for the coming weeks.

Amatola Water Board chief executive officer Xola Bomela tried to allay fears and said the water was safe to drink. “From an operational point of view, we flushed out the reservoir and reticulation pipes. We then tested the water and found if to be safe to drink,” said Bomela.

Bomela cautioned residents, though, not to use the water to do laundry as it could affect the colour of the clothing. “We are working hard with investigations and we are monitoring the presence of metal on a daily basis. We are also working with the BCM (Buffalo City Municipality) Health Department. We will go into all these areas and take samples,” he said.

BCM spokesperson Keith Ngesi said more tests were being conducted at the municipal laboratory.

Source: Dispatch online

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